Relish Reading

by | August 20, 2009

Sitting down with your morning coffee or the beverage of your choice, you skim the headlines of the local newspaper, scoot through your RSS feeds, or rush through reading summaries of journal articles before you begin the day. Or, perhaps, you mesh with multi-tasking. You prepare dinner or spend time on Facebook or IM while trying to read. Does engaging reading in this manner add or detract from your retention and understanding of academic content? Our approach to reading affects our reading. Here are a few questions to help you assess your approach toward reading.

Do you tend to read as an end to itself or means to an end? If you read as an end to itself, it doesn’t negate the pragmatic function. Rather, it provides conceptual space to make significant pragmatic connections with the content such as the scholars, theory, and best practices in your field of study. Why? You allow time for your thoughts to incubate, rather than rush toward a conclusion. Engage the tension of reading between the two ends; it may allow insights into your field of study to mushroom.

Do you tend to read to obtain quantity or quality of content? You may argue that you can obtain both while you read. I agree. However, your proclivity toward reading for quality will eventually produce quantity, but quantity doesn’t allows result in quality. That said, investigate, not only theories and scholars, but evaluate how they connect with the assumptions, questions, and concerns of the broader academic discipline.

Do you tend to grapple with the content or read to earn a grade. You may argue that grades are important to graduate. I agree. However, when you take the focus off learning about the discipline and emphasize the grade, results rather than process takes precedence in your education. But, the process of examining how the content fits into your broader understanding of the nature of reality, humanity, and knowledge and how it connects with your discipline is eclipsed by a grade. Learners with excellent grades have failed the comprehensive exam. Why? They couldn’t provide the level of depth and evaluation that only careful and critical reading can generate. Changing your approach to reading may result not only in academic success, but being scholarly. How can you challenge yourself to become a more skillful reader?

3 Responses to "Relish Reading"

  1. steven says:

    This artical reminds me of the long drives with my uncle on the way to my field class during my masters degree. He always encoureged me to concentrate on learning and not the grade, as well as the importance of the quality in my research. Did I mention he is a professor at Lincoln university and University of Delaware? Reading these words coming from your writings gives me great comfort because there were many days that I felt that I would not have made it (Masters degree) without his wise words of inlightenment. Once again thank you…

    • Dana Forbes says:


      I am glad that you found this entry helpful. It’s so easy to get busy and overlook the quality of our reading. I wish you the best as you challenge yourself to continue to read deeply and critically, examining the author’s assumptions, arguments, and language and how they fit into your broader field of study. Would you mind sharing your plan to help others read for quality? I look forward to your insight.

  2. Mitch Pollock says:

    Reading is such an integral part of earning a PhD. I teach at the undergraduate and Masters levels, and I see so many students trying to get by without opening the books. There have even been times where I saw work from my fellow PhD classmates that clearly demonstrated a lack of reading and preparation. I am afraid reading is becoming a lost art, as we live in a world of communication overload.